"Action stations" – whatever happened to standing still and waiting for the ball?

As a young batsman, the absolute importance of standing still until the bowler released the ball was drummed into me. And more recently, as I have worked through various levels of the coach education process, the same mantra is still repeated – pick up the bat, yes, think about leading with the dipped front shoulder, but don’t move the feet too early.

It’s not easy. And when young players see the professionals twitching, shuffling their feet, and generally not standing still, it can be even harder to convince them to stick to the text-book and wait until the ball is released.So I was fascinated to read an article in the Summer issue of the ECB Coaches Association “Coaches Matter”, with Graham Thorpe, now England’s Lead Batting Coach.

The article describes how England’s top batsmen are now being coached to adopt the “action position” as they wait for the ball, replacing what can be uncoordinated trigger movements with a coordinated pre-delivery sequence to initiate rhythm and activate muscles.

The position is described as being like that used by a boxer – balanced, ready to move forward or back, and decidedly not static.

A lot of top batsmen (most?) have never stood perfectly still when they wait for the bowler. Alistair Cook, for example, now seems to open up his front foot just a little before the ball is released. And it works for him.

Paraphrasing slightly from the article…

The width of the [action] position can be established approximately by dropping the back knee down…where the knee meets the heel of the left foot (for a right-hander) that is a good indicator of the “action” position.

Take a look at Eoin Morgan (bear with the ad from ESPNStar – it is only short) as he talks about his unique stance. With that back foot pivot and bend of the back knee, this looks very like the movement described in the ECB article – except Morgan performs it as the bowler is running in!

And it most certainly works for him!

OK. This is advice for players facing the very best bowlers in the world. And it is clear that the movements must be coordinated, and repeatable.

But next time one of our young players starts a pre-delivery trigger movement, perhaps we will try coaching him into the action position, rather than telling him to stand still!

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theteesra

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB CA cricket coach working at the MCC Academy, the Essex Indoor Cricket Centre, and with the junior sections at Oakfield Parkonians CC & Regent's Park CC. ECB ACO umpire.

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